A final thought for the day…

There is just enough time to post a short note before the end of the day.  As far as I’ve been able to tell, most people who took the 30 blog challenge did so for the month of June.  I was a few days late finding out about it, so I have three more days.  Unlike most, I have missed a few days along the way, but then I knew that would happen before I began.   But I still have a few days left.  I’m writing this so that I don’t miss another day.  And I’m conflicted: Do I post something that is sloppy just so that I post something, or do I just skip it since the quality of this post is so inferior.  If you are reading this, you know my choice.

My next self-imposed challenge will be a 15 day blog challenge on my other wordpress blog, http://crogowfutch.wordpress.com.  Once school begins, and work, too, I’m not sure how often I will blog.  Time will tell.

I hope to continue blogging, primarily because I enjoy it.  I have also found that wonderful things happen when I write, reflect, ruminate (I like that word) and dream.  A lot has happened this month (see previous blog) and I am excited about what lies ahead.  Blogging has been pivotal in helping clarify my life goals and visualizing my dream.  I want to keep that up.

Right now, however, it is four minutes till midnight, past my bedtime.  So, until tomorrow, sleep well.  Good night all.  Layla Tov.

Turning Another Page

What a day!  What a month!  It seems that we can go for such a long time in what seems like a rut.  Then something changes.  Our course veers a little.  Momentum picks up, and suddenly you realize that you are on a different trajectory.  Once again there is major change in our home.  I can think of only one other time in my history when I was as focused and made choices based on what was authentic and true for me.  Once before I stepped off the beaten path, changed direction, and sought authenticity.  That was over a decade ago when I stepped out of my life as a minister, and through a methodical search and prayerful consideration, chose to become an Orthodox Jewish woman.  While I have had wistful moments now and then, I have never regretted the choice to assume my Jewish identity.  The going has not always been sweet and romantic, far from it.  But I definitely made the correct choice. I cannot imagine living any other way.

Once again I have made a choice which has taken a lot of consideration and thought.  Once again I am focusing on following my heart, and doing it methodically and with prayer.  HOWEVER, lest you think this choice is some drastic life altering change, relax.  Maybe it is drastic and life altering, but not in the same way that my conversion was.  I have decided to start a business.  I’ve written about it in recent blogs.  I am writing about my “dream” now because I am really starting to make things happen and it is exciting.  So, here is where I stand today:

  • I have finally been admitted into graduate school.  Financial aid is in place.  I have registered for my first class, and text books are ordered.  School for me begins the week of July 12.  Three or four years from now, I will test for my license as a clinical mental health counselor.
  • I received the offer of employment today.  Low wage, but the work is perfect for me at this point in time, and fits in the plan.  I will be assisting the Rehab person at an assisted living facility.  This is a low stress job–I am not a supervisor or manager.  YET, I will be working with some really neat people in a helping profession.  My energy can be directed to school and my business.  Cool, huh.
  • I have created my first line of inspirational note cards with plans to start selling them by the holidays.  There are still a few kinks to iron out, but I am ready to start on a small-scale.
  • I have started another blog on another website, testing the water for my business site which I hope to get set up by year’s end.  There is a possibility that this new blog will generate some money.  I’m just experimenting while it still does not cost me anything.  When I get my business website, I plan to move my blogs there, to sell my photography and note cards, and to offer inspirational blogs on a daily basis. (An E book is even a possibility a year or two down the road.)

The five-year plan is to become a licensed Mental Health Counselor, hang out my shingle,  to work with people face-to-face, and start an online counseling and therapy practice.  Online counseling is a new field, but I’ve already joined a professional group that is in the process of defining the ethics, laws, licensing, etc.  Everything will happen through my web page: the counseling business, inspirational coaching and direction, inspirational cards, fine art photography, even things such as mugs and tee shirts, etc. are not out of the question.

What happened to trigger this flurry of  dreaming and activity?  Well, I’ve had a year and a half of unemployment to “ruminate.” (I think I alluded to that in an earlier blog.)  When the time was right, everything fell into place.  The vision was complete, and it was reasonable and doable.  The point when this all came together, the knowing what I was to do, occurred when I was making Mother’s Day cards.  That is the moment when I was able to see how all the pieces fit: art, writing, counseling.  Once the “picture” was in place, I made the choice to DO!  Just do it!  No one was knocking down my door to hire me.  I was weary of conducting a job search every time we moved, and every move being determined by my husband’s job.  Now I have a business plan, a career that will go with me wherever we live.  It is not dependent on location.  Once I decided, action steps came naturally.  The result?  I’m enrolled in school, got a job, started a business.  I’m looking forward to the next five years! and beyond….

Richard is fantastic with all of this.  He amazes me with encouraging words.  He believes in me.  Every woman should be so blessed.  So, we are moving forward with this plan.  I am happy to share this with you, and hope you will continue to follow us on this journey.

My questions to you:  When life hands you lemons, what kind of lemonade can you make?  Are you in a rut?  If so, what can you do to climb out of that rut?  Do you have a secret dream, a talent, something you are afraid to talk about but would love to do?  How can you make that dream realistic, practical, doable?  What do you need to do to live your dream?  (Forgive me for sounding so hokey….but… well, what do you need to do?)

I look forward to hearing about your dreams.  Please feel free to leave a comment.

Forget Global Warming! It’s Poison I’m Worried About!!!

Something caught my eye this weekend that really bothers me.  I saw an article about how we poison our environment.  Scientists were shocked by the level of heavy metals, synthetic chemicals and other man-made poisons found in whales in remote areas of the ocean and Antarctica.   Dismay over plastic “islands” floating around in the middle of the ocean hardly raises an eyebrow for most of us.  Oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico is decimating the eco-system, food chain, and livelihood of all life around the coast, and we are unsure of the extent and severity of the devastation in deeper waters.

Our food chain is being poisoned world wide.  We are squabbling over global warming and whether or not it is being triggered or exacerbated by humans, and in the meantime without doubt or question, we humans are poisoning our world, our food chain, and thus ourselves.  I fear we are reaching a tipping point, if we haven’t crossed that line already. What can we do? What can I do?

I wrung my hands, as if that does any good.  Then I began to think of how we are all culpable.

Harsh cleansers, plastic packaging, synthetic foods, fertilizers, disposable everything we can dispose of, dependence on fossil fuels, fungicides, herbicides…and on and on and on.  I was of the mind that humans were here to be stewards of creation, not destroyers.  How do we stop?  To be honest, I’m not sure that we can stop, but that does not mean we are helpless.  (Seldom are we truly helpless…we just don’t know the solution…but there are solutions.)  I for one will make as much of a difference for the good as I can:

1.  Stop using disposables! Hard to do, but necessary.  No paper plates, paper napkins, paper cups.  No Styrofoam, plastic disposable table clothes.  I keep a kosher kitchen so this is a challenge, but generations of people kept kosher long before we became a disposable society.  We can do it again!

2.  Use natural cleansers: vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, elbow grease–will clean just about anything.  Surf the internet and you would be amazed at all the natural cleaning solutions we have in our homes.  Get rid of the harsh chemicals!

3.  Forget the soap! Yes. You read right.  Years ago I heard a dentist talking about the fact that all we need to do is use a dry (or water only) toothbrush, brush daily, and that will work just fine.  Toothpaste is manufactured and sold for a profit.  If you must use something, use baking soda.  (I know.  Yuk.  I prefer a plain toothbrush and water.)  Health Agency nurses (former army nurses in Viet Nam, people I worked with when I was a counselor for people infected with HIV/AIDS) informed me that I only need friction and water when washing hands.  That’s all they had at times on the battle field.  Rough your hands up a bit, but cut back or even eliminate the soap.  Clothes detergent?  It’s the friction that cleans the clothes.  This I read in the last month.  When I was in Nicaragua, the people had precious little water, and less soap, yet they were able to get the whitest whites I’ve ever seen.  No lie.  I’ve started washing my clothes with less than a tablespoon of dry detergent…can’t tell the difference.

4.  Repair. Reuse. Recycle….EVERYTHINHG!  Some of us are old enough to remember when we would get shoes resoled, dresses re-hemmed, buttons re-sewn, toasters repaired.  I have two lamps that I love, but they were no longer working.  I considered buying new lamps and disposing of the broken ones.  On a whim, I drove to Lowe’s, bought two thingys you screw the light bulb into, then came home and rewired the lamps myself!  Cost about $5 and my lamps are working beautifully.  Simply put, we throw away too much “stuff.”

5.  For one year, do not buy anything whatsoever except perishable items such as food.  There are people who do this, then write about the experience.  Not only do you save money, but the sense of accomplishment and self sufficiency is reward enough.  How much stuff do we need?  Having our stuff is poisoning our world…and us…on many  different levels.

6.  Shop the thrift stores. I sew.  I have enough material (almost all of it given to me) to last for 10 years or more.  I will not buy ready made clothes.  If you don’t sew, shop the thrift stores.  I have found some amazing buys.  All it takes is a bit of patience to go through the mountains of stuff that you don’t want.  Mix and match. Buttons from a $1 blouse make great decoration on a $3 jacket. Use your imagination.  We throw away enough clothes every year to clothe the world.

7.  Compost and recycle. I was amazed at how little garbage we put out each week once I started recycling and composting.  I’m actually making my own dirt from the food I throw out every day.  It’s great for my potted plants, and cost me nothing.  Recycle all products you can recycle.  Our landfills are too full.  And they are toxic.

8.  Make your own cosmetics. I do not buy expensive cosmetics.  I make my own: avacados, olive oil and grapeseed oil, bananas, peaches, milk and cream, corn meal, water water water, etc.  I have books with recipes.  If you like, I’ll share some of my favorites in another post.

9.  Use your own re-usable shopping bags. Get away from the ubiquitous plastic that is killing our wildlife.

10.   Grow your own food.  Eat less meat. If you don’t have garden space, plant a container garden on your patio or porch.  Grow just a few things if that is all you can do.  Know where your food comes from.  Eat locally grown produce.  (Less packaging, less fuel used in transporting, fresher food, etc.)  This is healthy eating, and it has less impact on our environment.  Read up on how this one simple thing impacts our environment.

11.  Cook your own meals.  Eat left-overs. One does not have to be a gourmet cook.  I am not, nor will I ever join that elite group of people.  However, a simple meal served in an elegant way, can be just as enjoyable, and oftentimes more so, as going out.  You save money.  There is less waste.  The environment will thank you.  Have a picnic.  Light some candles.  Think of the calories you are NOT ingesting.  (Known fact:  eat out a lot = lot more calories.)  Make eating at home an adventure.  Every one make a dish to contribute to the meal.  Take turns cleaning up afterward.  Enjoy a long, leisurely meal.  Make this family time.  There are so many things one can do to make our meal times a spiritually uplifting and nurturing event in our daily lives.

If we use less, we poison less.  I don’t know if it’s too late or not.  But the thought of how our world is drastically changing in a very short period of time breaks my heart.  I want to grow old seeing flowers bloom and trees blossom every spring.  I want hear the birds chirping and watch the squirrels playing well iinto my old age.  I want to watch my grandchildren grow up and have children of their own, and for them to respect and enjoy the natural beauty of this world over the synthetic façade we, as a culture, are so enamored with.  I want there to be enough healthy food for every one, for the world in its majestic beauty to be enjoyed for generations to come.  I want to know that we sat up, took notice, took responsibility for how we used and abused our resources, and made the choice to clean up our mess and live responsibly.

We are all in acquisitions.  And what are we acquiring?  Why is it that we “need” so much “stuff” that merely clutters, pollutes, poisons, and destroys?  It seems to me that our souls are bereft, but we fill the emptiness with material junk instead of spiritual food.  We have got it all wrong.  I for one, want to get it right, at least as much as I am able.  I want a wealthy spirit and a simple life.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were each able to make choices for that kind of wealth and health.  .

Baby, It’s Hot Outside!

Remember the song from years ago, “Baby, it’s cold outside…”?  Well that song keeps going through my head, but with a slight alteration.  There is no snow, but the heat…well…baby, it is definitely hot outside.  I really don’t care to write about the heat wave we’re having.  Weather is so blasé;  overdone.  But, weather is what is on everyone’s mind, at least in this area.  So, it’s hot outside.  Happens every summer, without fail, as long as I‘ve been alive.  Big deal.  Every summer some heat related record is broken.  Today another one bites the dust as the temperature reaches past one hundred degrees Fahrenheit.  If that bothers you, stay inside.  Yes, it’s dangerous out.  I get that.  If staying cool is a problem, visit a bookstore, coffee shop, library, shopping mall, or go to a movie…all sorts of places can provide air-conditioned comfort in weather like this.  Despite all the grumbling, mumbling, groaning and complaining, I still love the summer heat.  Richard does not.  He feels about the heat in summer the way I feel about the cold in winter.  Believe it or not, I will go outside and sit in the heat for a bit when the air-conditioning gets to be too much.  Air-conditioning is unnatural, and it feels “awkward,“ not normal. I love hot weather.  That does not mean I’m going to stay out in it when it reaches the danger zone, like today…code orange.  I have a healthy respect for the hot weather.  Enjoy it, but also know when to get out of it.  I learned from my years as a life guard when we periodically had to close the pool due to extreme heat.  I know that sounds strange, but the closure was oftentimes for the safety of us guards; we were the ones sitting in the sun all day watching you folks frolic in the water.  More than one life guard has collapsed from heat exhaustion, or suffered sun poison.  My guard days were years ago.  I can’t remember the last time I was in a pool.  What a pity.  We have other ways of cooling off now.  Today Richard and I drove to Border’s bookstore, sat in their comfy chairs in air-conditioned luxury, and read and wrote and stayed cool.  Heard on the radio coming home that tomorrow things cool off a bit: high in the mid 90’s.  By Tuesday, we can expect a cold-front, and temperatures plunging into the 80’s.  What do you expect?  It’s summer.

p.s.  On a serious note, this really is dangerous heat.  Do you have elderly or disabled family, friends or neighbors?  This might be a good time to check on them to make sure they have plenty of water, and are staying cool.  If you have acquaintances who do not have air-conditioning, maybe you can round up some fans for them, or invite them out someplace where everyone can enjoy some relief.  Know the signs of heat stroke, heat exhaustion or sun poison,  http://www.medicinenet.com/heat_exhaustion/article.htm  and call for medical help if you need to.  I joke about the heat with my husband, friends, and in this blog, but extreme temperatures are no laughing matter.  Stay hydrated.  Stay cool.  Be knowledgeable.  Check on each other.  Enjoy the summer!

Today is the Day, Part 2

Well, I finished my essay as I said I would.  However, when I went back to re-read it, I wasn’t happy with it.  I started editing.  After all, this essay will be part of my admission packet.  It needs to be perfect.  Reveal enough to let the administrators know that I am a well-rounded, solid, intelligent, thoughtful, person, well suited for life as a counselor; not enough to let them see that I am at times a neurotic, needy, blubbering mess.  Striking the balance is rather tricky.  To be honest, I was proud of the essay I wrote, and ready to submit it for posterity’s sake … except for one of the four sections: self-awareness.  What do they mean by self-awareness?  Just how much self-awareness do “they“ want from me?  Do I write about the bad, the ugly, the painful experiences of my life?  The problem is that I could give too much information, more than anyone wants.  Do I write about unconditional love and acceptance, growing up with no problems, being exceptionally wise?  Nah…too Pollyannaish, too saccharine.  “They” would never believe it anyway.   What to do.

I edited this one section many times.  I finally wrote about growing up in an average, middle class home with a fair amount of hills and valleys to navigate.  I decided to just tell them I was no more or no less messed up than anyone else on this planet.  When I finished, it looked good to me, so I submitted the essay, and now I can relax.

NOT!  Now there are forms to fill out for the  place I interviewed earlier this week.  Background checks have to be conducted before a job can be offered.  Glad they don’t get to read my personal essay for graduate school!

Today is THE Day!

Today is the day I finish my essay for graduate school admission.  Everything else is done.  My financial aid was approved.  I have conditionally enrolled in my first class.  The book list is ready, and all I have to do is click the button to order my texts.  Everything is in place.  However, I am stuck in sight of the finish line (or in this case, the starting line), and have been unable to clear this final hurdle for full enrollment.  Unfortunately, this is a long-time pattern for me.  How did this happen?  I don’t know.  I just know that when I get close to the “prize,” whatever that might be, I choke, hem-and-haw, stop to smell the roses, mentally wander through a useless thought garden.  Happens without fail.  And that is where I am today.  Just this one more thing (not difficult or time-consuming) to do.  Sadly, many opportunities have slipped through my fingers because of my procrastination…or absolute avoidance.  Is it fear?  Is it perfectionism? What?  There is both a little fear, and a lot of perfectionism, but I’ve shown myself to be a risk taker, and can function at a reasonable level far short of perfect (my blog, for instance.)  Knowing my past accomplishments and capabilities does not seem to be enough impetus to help me accomplish what I need to do in situations like this.  On the other hand, the positive side is that I am a ruminator (?) and after much ruminating I am able to move forward with great clarity and speed.  After a year and a half of considering this step (ruminating,) I have moved forward with said clarity and speed, as usual, except for this one thing…as usual.  So, this morning when I awoke, I resolved to myself to finish the essay already started, and submit it by noon!  Nothing like a deadline to get me moving!

Why am I telling you this?  Accountability.  Check in with me later today to see if I made it…

To be continued. . .

But it’s Just a Small Business

Today I decided to spend some time looking at the required forms and paperwork to apply for a Leadership Grant to start my small business.  I plan to start with something simple, inspirational note cards.  Using my own photographs, which in all truthfulness are rather nice, I add a verse or two of Psalms.  The inside of the cards are left blank so you can write your own note.  I’m pleased with the results, and once I figure out how to upload a few samples to this blog I’ll let you see what I’m doing.  So far, I’ve gotten some good comments.  As I was saying, I’m starting this small business selling just the notecards with the idea to expand later (I have ideas!), once I start making a little money.  To begin with, however, I need a small grant to purchase some equipment (digital printer, Mac computer—the preferred computer for artists, and maybe a digital single lens reflex camera, although my point and shoot Olympus has gotten some phenomenal shots.)  These are really the only purchases I need to start this small business, so I thought a simple business plan would be enough to apply for a grant for some start-up money, 2 or 3 thousand dollars would buy all that I need plus paper and ink, too.  After all, this is a simple cottage industry with me as the sole proprietor—a small business.

I Googled “grants for start-up money for small businesses,”  and that is how I found Leadership Grants.  Excitedly, I filled out the simple inquiry form, and the next day I received notice that Leadership Grants was happy to accept a request for funds.  I was given a password, skipped on over to their web site, and promptly found the information they needed to consider my request (for funds for a small business.)  I opened up the first template (business plan) and saw that it was 49 pages long…49 pages for a small business!  The first questions were simple and straightforward, something you would expect when asking for money from any funding source:  What form of business are you in? What type of business is it?  Is it a new business, a takeover, a franchise?  What is your product or service? Nothing unexpected.  I can do this.

The next questions were about products and service.  I could handle those questions, too, although they did take a little more thought.  The third group of questions, though, moved me into unknown territory and they had to do with marketing:  What are the key drivers, movers and trends in the market?  To whom do you market your product and services?  How will you educate your customers to buy from you?  Who is your target market? I began to feel a little anxious with these questions, but except for the drivers, movers and trends question, I figured this was doable.  Mind you, we are still on the first page of a 49 page template.

Turn the page, and now they (Leadership Grants folk) are asking about my competition! Is your service better, faster, cheaper, and if so, why?  Is your advantage a temporary window and are there steps you can take to protect your position?  What have you learned from your competition?  From their advertising?  How is their business currently?  Steady? Increasing? Decreasing? I realize that the aforementioned folks have to be careful with their money, and that they want to know that they are granting funds to entrepreneurs who have well thought out plans, but for my small business this was over the top!  And there was so much more!!!

By the time I got to the detailed Market Analysis portion of the request form, my eyes had glazed over and my brain ceased functioning.  When I reached Psychographics, I was laughing hysterically:  status seeking or trend setting?  Socially or environmentally conscious?  Free spending or conservative?  Practical or fun seeking? Then the Leadership folks wanted names, addresses and phone numbers of my top three competitors?  What???

All I want to do is set up a little side business to bring in a little extra money.  I am a photographer and a bit of a writer.  I just thought that I could make some simple cards and sell them to some friends and family, possibly some small shops (owners I know) would be willing to sell a few cards now and then for me.  Just a small business in need of a small grant for start-up costs.

I closed my file with Leadership Grants, and now I’m back to Google looking for small grants for small businesses.

A Tribute to Dad

I have been up since early morning, as is my custom, as is my parents’ custom.  The sun is up, though, and it looks like we are in for a beautiful day.  Today is Father’s Day, but I’m not with my dad…He, along with Mom, is camping with my kids!  Can anything be more wonderful than that?  My children go camping with my parents once a year, always in June.  Each year, the date is set, and one of the kids, on a rotating basis, picks the spot and plans the trip.  The children start talking about it two or three months in advance.  To them–Tim (Maria, their daughter Genevieve), Mica (John, her son Jacob), and Mary (Chad)–my parents are the coolest, most fun people to camp with in the world!  I think so, too.  As I begin to write, many memories crowd my thoughts, each begging to be told.

As a little girl, my dad was always my hero.  All girls should be so lucky to have a father that she adores.  Dad was born in, and grew up in Louisiana.  His father, Daddy Futch to us, was a small cotton farmer in north Louisiana, and also a part-time barber.  Dad started school in a one room school house (albeit, not for long.) According to Momma Futch, he was able to attend early because she, my grandmother, cooked lunches for the students….many grades in one room. According to Momma Futch, (if I recall correctly) the school was within walking distance of the farm house.   Dad’s love of reading and learning, fostered by his mother, began at an early age.  Momma Futch (Donie Hollis) loved to learn, and left home at one point to go to the southern part of the state, Evangeline Parrish, to teach.  She left teaching after she married and then became pregnant with Uncle Jerrold.  In that time and place, pregnant women were not allowed to teach in the public school system.  What a pity.

I don’t have a lot of stories of Dad during his growing up years.  He was a farm boy who worked the farm with his dad, but was not destined to become a farmer himself.  Once he graduated from Farmersville High School, Dad went off to college, Louisiana Tech.  As much as he loved learning, though, he was not a particularly good student.  (I did not know this until I was an adult.)  He at one point even considered dropping out of school.  But then, along came Patricia Culbertson and everything changed.  He did finish college, married Mom, and moved to North Carolina where he attended Duke Divinity School.  When finished with school, degree in hand,  already with twins and another baby on the way, he and Mom returned to Louisiana where as an ordained minister in the Methodist church, he began his life as a preacher.

Life for us revolved around the church.  I grew up seeing my dad teaching, leading, and preaching in every community we lived in.  For me, my dad could do no wrong.  He was a principled man.  We never had a lot of money, but my brothers and I have often commented to each other (in adulthood) that we never felt poor…ever.  Dad was a serious minded person.  When he was working on his sermons (Saturday night and early Sunday morning) we knew not to disturb him.  Other times, though, I remember us kids playing ball with him, or tickling and laughing.  He was a gentle man, quiet demeanor, an avid reader and writer.  On Sundays he belonged to the church, but even then, when the service was over I would run to the church vestibule to stand beside him as he greeted the people filing out. From the time I was a little girl, I was always proud to stand beside him.

Camping was a big part of our lives.  It was the way we could travel and see this country.  Neither of my parents grew up camping, so this was something new and different.  One thing about my parents, they never shied away from venturing into unchartered territory.  From who knows where, they found a three-sided baker tent and we took our first vacation to the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee.  I was only five years old, but I clearly remember that trip.  I also remember the feeling that we had always been campers.  The entire family took to it like fish to water, and we have all been campers ever since.  The Baker tent, however, was not the tent one would ever want to camp in.  I don’t know who thought of it first, where they got the idea, or what possessed them, but after two or three years camping in the Baker, Mom and Dad decided to make a teepee modeled after the Sioux American Indians’ mobile abode.  Months were spent making the thing.  (Can you believe they actually carried through on this?)  They used the book, THE INDIAN TIPI: ITS HISTORY, CONSTRUCTION AND USE by Reginald and Gladys Laubin, as their guide.  Mom did the sewing and the Marion High School gymnasium was used when she had to lay the pattern out flat.  Dad cut down Louisiana pine trees from his dad’s farm, then stripped them of their bark and stood them to dry.  Furthermore, he built a metal frame to attach to our blue Chevy station wagon to transport the teepee poles.  We laid them on the top of our car in a specific order, and secured them with rope.  Dad also built a tailor-made trailer which attached to our car.  Finally, summer came and we took the teepee out for our first trip.  From then on, that is the only “tent” we kids ever camped in while we were still living at home.  We traveled from one end of this country to another, camping in the high Rockies, the smokey mountains, the western plains—every place we could set up a teepee.  Part of the fun was seeing and hearing people’s reaction as they saw us driving down the highway, a “raft” on top of our car and a bulky trailer being pulled behind us.  When we weren’t on vacation, Dad would sometimes set the teepee up in our back yard and we would roast marshmallows over a fire built inside the teepee.  Dad, along with Mom, would take youth groups on weekend retreats and could sleep fourteen teens at a time in this, our camping home.

On one camping trip to Wyoming, as we drove down the highway, we saw a teepee in the distance at the end of a long drive.  It looked similar to the one pictured in the book, THE INDIAN TIPI, Mom and Dad had used as a guide for constructing our teepee.  Based on information found in the book, Dad knew that the authors lived in Wyoming.  On a whim, Dad decided to check it out.  We turned the car around, drove up the long drive, parked, then Dad got out and approached the people who lived there.  Sure enough, we were standing face to face with the Laubins.  We were privileged to spend some time with them in their teepee, and they personally invited us to a presentation they were doing that evening.  Their mission was to dispel a lot of myths about Indians, and to educate the public about Indian culture and dancing.  We attended, and even got front row seats.  What a learning experience that was in more ways than one.  Besides learning a bit about the American Indian (please don’t believe what you see in the movies!) I learned the value of spontaneity and serendipity and being free and brave to take a few side roads when the opportunity arises.

On our family camping trips, Dad would tell us marvelous stories that he would make up on the spot!  Big Chief Blue Chevrolet was usually the primary character.  We all had names, but his is the only one I can remember.  Dad would stand outside the teepee, and using the lantern as a backlight, he would illustrate the stories with shadow play and voice changes.  We would sit inside, listen and watch the shadows dance across the canvas, shriek at all the appropriate times, and sometimes fall over holding our sides as we were overtaken with laughter.  After such frivolity, we children would crawl into our sleeping bags circled around the outer edges of the teepee and doze off to sleep as we watched the embers of the fire slowly die down.  We could hear Mom and Dad quietly whispering to each other as they, too, were winding down from a busy day.  There never was a safer, more contented place to be than in those moments with the entire family gathered together in the teepee.  Early mornings were usually cold, but we would wake to the sound of Dad outside making coffee (I don’t even have the words to describe Dad’s unique way of making camp coffee…fun.) for Mom who allowed herself the pleasure of sleeping in past daybreak when we camped.

During my high school years, Dad left the ministry, we left Louisiana, and life became a bit more complicated.  The move to Kentucky was not so smooth.  The entire family was in transition, and for each of us, new challenges shook our world.  Dad had to find work.  It took some doing, and the days were fraught with tension, but he was able to get a job as editor of a rural magazine.  Mom became a substitute teacher while she looked for other work, and ended up going back to school to get her teaching certificate.  She taught for years.  Dad became a writer.  They, together continued to dream and to do the extraordinary.

Mom and Dad backpacking with my brother, Steve.

After we kids graduated from high school, my parents decided that lugging a teepee around was just too much for the two of them.  So, they took up backpacking…mind you, they were “middle age” by this time.  And, like the teepee, Mom and Dad made their tents, their parkas, their backpacks, their down sleeping bags, etc. etc. etc.  I never had the pleasure of backpacking with them, but they have camped every summer.  They come back with wonderful stories of their adventures and discoveries.

Each of us kids has had our own challenges, disappointments, and painful moments. We turn to our parents without hesitation, not to bail us out, but to be the support and encouragement we need to continue the journey.  While I have not written about their rough spots in this blog, I have alluded to some of the challenges they faced in previous blogs.  Dad made tough decisions and he, along with Mom, modeled for us how to survive, and more importantly, how to thrive when one reaches the other side of a life-changing crisis.  When I left the church, and became Jewish, my parents stood by me and loved me even though they neither one fully understood my decision.  Dad once told me that while he experienced a twinge of sadness over my choice, the important thing was that I was following my heart and strengthening my connection with G-d.  As I think about it, I have become the woman that he and Mom raised me to be.  The modeling I got from my dad was to be true to myself.  He and Mom made decisions that oftentimes looked ridiculous or irresponsible to the outside world, but those decisions made perfect sense to them and this family.  As a result, we have lived the richest of lives, have seen this country from border to border, have come to respect the many cultures of people who populate this nation, and have created memories others only dream of.

Mom and Dads 50th

In adulthood, we each have to come to terms with our parents’ humanness. In time we learn of their foibles, their shortcomings, the fact that they are not omnipotent, but in spite of that, Dad is still my hero, a man to be looked up to and respected, and most of all, deeply loved.  And on top of that, he loves camping with my kids and making memories with them.  How cool is that?

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Annual Camping Trip: Dad, Mom, Kids et al

Busy Day…

What a day…I’m posting so that I can keep my committment to the 30 day challenge (blog everyday for 30 days)…but in all honesty, I’m not sure this one counts as a blog or as whining about all the things that “prevented” me from blogging.  I think I’ll count it as a blog.  It’s my blog, I can do what I want!

I started out the day at the dentist’s office.  Nothing major, just routine stuff.  But I was there for an hour and a half.  When I got home, I started on my FAFSA form and financial aid application for graduate school.  By the way, I was admitted to Capella to begin work on my MS in Mental Health Counseling to begin on July 12.  Not a lot of time to get the rest of my registration materials in.  I worked on those forms for hours today.

I then received notice that the Leadership Grant folks have accepted my application for a grant for start up money for my business.  Woohoo. I have till the end of July to write out my business plan, complete their required forms, do the research and develop the financial part, apply  to be a sole proprietorship, etc.  A lot of work, but I’m psyched.  Starting school AND my business! (Even if I don’t receive the grant, the business moves forward, just at a slower pace.)

Then, I got an email and I have a job interview next week (a job in the field I am going to get my degree in) and so now I’m doing some research on the company and the job.  I fully expect to be hired.  Fully!  (So, starting school, starting business, starting new job…all in the month of July.)

Finally, my husband’s car is dead as a doornail and the car folks can’t seem to fix it. So, when Richard got home tonight, we went car shopping.  We did not buy anything (came thaaaaat close) but we have an idea of what he wants.

There you have it.  I could choose something to “reflect” upon, but I simply don’t have the energy.  This has been a very busy, rewarding, exciting, tiring day.  I’m going to be busy, but I plan to keep blogging.  This, too, is in my plan.

Sleep well.  More tomorrow.

(p.s. no editing this blog tonight…the perfectionist in me cringes, but not enough to motivate me to perfect this post.  Oh well, such is life.)

A Fine Oily Mess

I’m heartbroken about the oily mess in the Gulf of Mexico.  I grew up in Louisiana.  That is my home state and even though it has been years since I’ve been there, Louisiana will always be my home state.  The state has some of the most fascinating wildlife in this country.  Cypress trees with roots that sink deep into the murky bayous, their branches draped with long, gray, curly tendrils of Spanish moss, exotic birds, varieties of snakes, colorful spiders, abundant fish, and more live in those waters.  Unique is the word that best describes the culture and life of the southern Louisiana lowlands and marshes.  I lived mainly in the northern panhandle, but what happened south of the capital Baton Rouge, affected the entire state.  I liked living in Louisiana.  I grew up thinking our state was special.  Moving north to Kentucky when I was a teenager was a traumatic experience, and it took a few years to adjust to living life in the “north.”  I never actually visited the Gulf when we lived in Louisiana.  I didn’t make it to those waters until I was in college and I went down to the Florida Keys during spring break.  Pelicans, the Louisiana state bird, were ubiquitous, and beautiful even if a bit strange looking.  The beaches were beautiful, the sun hot.  We did all the touristy things, not the Daytona stuff of movies.  Our small group camped near the beach, swam out on the reef, watched stingray and barracuda swim beneath us.  The Florida part of the Gulf is not like the Louisiana Gulf, but it was beautiful and fun, too.  It, too, will soon be “affected” by the oil gushing from a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, pictures of the Gulf filling up with oil break my heart.  I can’t bear to look at any more photographs.  The magnitude of what has happened is staggering.  President Obama, in his recent speech addressing the issue, made the statement that we do not presently have the technology to stem the flow of oil.  Do not have the technology????  As in we have nothing invented yet to stop the oil from gushing into the gulf?  As in there is nothing we can do about this at the present moment?  Are you kidding me????  We put men on the moon decades ago and we don’t have the technology to do anything about this?  Wildlife is being destroyed.  Destroyed!  Not only is the oil polluting the water, oxygen beneath the oil is being depleted.  Fish, birds, dolphins, sharks—All sea animals are rushing to shallow water attempting to escape suffocation.  They will die in the shallow waters.  BP…I have no words strong enough to tell them what I think of them.  They knowingly violated safety regulations.  Why?  Greed.  They bought up BP searches on Google and Yahoo, in order to replace the entries with their own spin of what is happening.  Why?  Greed.  They have worked to prohibit, inhibit, and squelch stories, journalists, photographers, reporters from seeing those waters and telling us what is going on.  Why?  Greed.  BP has been far more interested in making sure their stockholders get their money than in stopping the flow of oil, or cleaning up the mess they have made.  BP is so far out of touch with what they have done to the entire ecosystem and culture of the Gulf of Mexico, it is criminal, and their cavalier attitude is arrogant to the point of revulsion.  And, on top of all that, eleven people lost their lives.  Eleven families will never see their loved one again.  All people who live and work on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are watching their livelihood being drowned in oil.  We have all lost because BP thumbed its nose at safety regulations, and have been thumbing their noses, we have learned, for quite some time.  And now, now we don’t have the technology to stop the oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, or to clean up this gargantuan mess.

I’m heartbroken.  I grieve.  I’m mad as hell.  And I don’t know what to do to make it all better, to go back to its former rich and lush and beautiful self.  I pray.  But the oil is still gushing.  And we don’t have the technology to stop it.